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Illegal Migration Bill poses problems for social workers

Social workers helping children subject to immigration control will face huge dilemmas under laws proposed in the Illegal Migration Bill – but help is available.

10/01/24

Illegal Migration Bill poses problems for social workers

Speaking to a packed seminar at the COMPASS Jobs Fair in London recently, a panel of experts discussed the implications of the bill.

‘The criminalisation of young people within the Illegal Migration Act, particularly in relation to age assessment…is one of the areas of intervention that you will come across and is one of the most contentious areas. It will challenge you in terms of your ethics, your codes of practice, and your Social Work England registration,’ said panel member and social worker Karen Goodman.

She said that that immigration and nationality are not a mandatory field in LCS or ICS recording. ‘That is one really important nugget of information to take away. Ask your local authority why immigration status isn’t part of the LCS/ICs recording.’

All the speakers emphasised that this information needed to be recorded with firewalls, so it could not be shared with the Home Office or the police.

Ms Goodman continued, ‘We encourage social workers to contact your senior management team or your DCS and share the information in our SWWB briefing. Ask questions – do your managers understand the dilemmas and risks posed by the work you are expected to do? And ask them what they are going to do about it.

‘Has your local authority considered what aspects of the new act will contravene social work professional standards and how are they going to maintain your rights to adhere to those standards?

‘What are the budgetary assessments and plans to ensure that your local authority will be able to cope, eg , with the massive increase in NRPF [No Recourse To Public Funds] work [the new Act] will bring in?’

‘These are massive questions and challenges and they are not easy.’

Ms Goodman outlined the role of Social Workers Without Borders, a voluntary organisation which campaigns on the rights of asylum-seeking and migrant children. SWWB also offers training to social workers, and its core team, including Ms Goodman, do direct work, including expert witness reports. ‘We very much rely on volunteers such as student social workers; they are mentored by trained experts to produce reports in pairs.’

The panel discussed the findings of the South London Refugee Association report ‘Taking Care: How local authorities can best address immigration issues of children in care’. The report says that delaying help on immigration and nationality issues could be costing local authorities hundreds of thousands of pounds per year. A citizenship application for a child costs £1,012. But waiting to resolve immigration issues until the young person leaves care can cost as much as £130,000.

Another panel member, Bettina Patel, Youth Policy and Participation manager at SLRA, said that children in the care system needed to have their status defined. ‘We know if immigration issues are not addressed early enough, the consequences can be devastating.

‘Organisations across the sector have come together to produce the Immigration Support Pledge which we are asking local authorities to adopt.

‘Immigration and nationality issues present serious and challenging issues for local authorities and frontline staff in children’s services. The ISP is based on four pillars, are intended to make these challenges as simple, straightforward and cost effective as possible. They are:
 To identify all local authority children with immigration and nationality issues. We ask that social workers never assume anything about a child’s citizenship or immigration status. This is because asking only one extra question as a child come as into care is vital. This question is does this child hold a British passport? If they are not eligible for a British passport then this simple question can shine a light on which child in care or young person may have an immigration or nationality issue that needs addressing.
 Connect looked after children and care leavers with good quality legal support as soon as possible because early advice is life-changing
 Be proactive and have an informed role in supporting looked after children and care leavers through any immigration applications and appeals;
 enable those who are eligible to apply for permanent status and British citizenship.’

Social Workers Without Borders –
https://www.socialworkerswithoutborders.org/

South London Refugee Association --
https://www.slr-a.org.uk/

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